Nation needs to get its act together, like Japan

Nation needs to get its act together, like Japan, by Terry McCrann.

In Japan ‘‘things’’ worked and worked well. Drawing on the old saying, in Japan the trains run on time; and indeed, extending the metaphor, so does everything else. In Australia neither the trains literally — nor ‘‘the everything else’’ figuratively — do. Indeed, in Melbourne on Friday they didn’t run at all. …

Population growth:

We tended to view Japan rather condescendingly as ‘‘not working’’ because of its negative demographics and very low overall economic growth.

As the reverse is actually the case, it should give us pause, very considerable pause ….

Australia has of course had an uninterrupted immigration-led population growth strategy for 70 years, since the end of World War II. But in the last decade or so we have sleepwalked into a policy of immigration-on-steroids.

In frenzied peak years we’ve imported an Adelaide every three-four years, while the ‘‘norm’’ has been to import ‘‘just’’ a Canberra every three years. …

The ‘‘Big Australia’’ debate has belatedly got under way. There’s a growing awareness that population-led growth is not free, but it might well be delivering profitless prosperity. …

Yes, our growth looks impressive at over 3 per cent a year, sustained for more than a quarter-of-a-century now. But in per capita terms, the growth rate over that period falls to a more modest 2 per cent a year. …

How much richer do you need to be; or do you really need 8½ bathrooms in every house when in the 1930s promising a ‘‘chicken in every pot’’ was considered enough?

The Japan that started out on this modest but still positive per capita growth path in 1991 was starting out already very affluent. Sacrificing some excess growth for livability seems a worthwhile trade. Sacrificing livability for a bigger economy statistic does not. But in any event the greater part of Australia’s strong (per capita) growth was actually last century. Over the past 10 years — which included the peak and re-peak of the mining boom — Australia’s per capita growth rate was just 1.2 per cent a year.

I note this period also includes the peak of negative livability. Further, that’s only going to worsen, especially in Melbourne and Sydney.

Yes, this was still stronger than the 0.45 per cent per capita growth that Japan recorded over the past 10 years, but that included the real and very serious recession that Japan suffered after the GFC.

Take that one big negative year out and Japan’s per capita growth over the last decade has been very similar to Australia’s.

Indeed, over the last five years, Japan’s per capita growth rate has been higher than Australia’s — running at 1.35 per cent a year as against our 1.25 per cent. That’s to say, Japan’s been getting to have its zero population growth livability and getting to eat its bigger economic cake as well.

hat-tip Stephen Neil